Getting to know Gwen Mayo


State a random fact about yourself that would surprise your readers.

In my twenties, I was a locomotive engineer.


If you weren’t a writer, what you would be?

I would be the most avid reader on the planet.


Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time? Seriously, what is spare time? I think everyone I know is busy all the time. There are things that I make time for; my family heads the list. I love spending time with my family. I make time for cooking and trying new recipes. I also make time to read, to walk by the ocean, and sometimes to just sit quietly for a few minutes without all the noise being constantly connected to the world. I have to unplug from everything now and then to give my mind space to explore ideas.


What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

That question requires backstory. Most people know that the medical examiner in the Nessa Donnelly series is based on a real person. I worked for Dr. Richard Haydon for about 13 years. When he found out I had a doctor in the book, he wanted the character to be him. After several discussions, I agreed to let him be the character and rewrote several scenes in the book to make my medical examiner reflect his personality.

Shortly before the book was released Dr. Haydon was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He was too ill to go to the book launch party. The last time I went to see him he had a copy of Circle of Dishonor on his bedside table. He picked it up, smiled at me, and said “I’m going to live forever.” I don’t think anything that is ever said will top that.


With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I write characters with a strong sense of justice in a world that isn’t fair or just. Beyond that, when you pick up one of my books, the story is going to take you to a unique moment in time in a place you wouldn’t have thought to visit.


What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

If you want someone else to publish your book, read their guidelines for submitting a manuscript and follow them to the letter. Don’t give agents or publishers an excuse to reject your book without reading  a single word. You may still get rejected many times. There are thousands of other unknown writers out there competing for a handful of new author slots in any publisher’s calendar. Those slots are going to go to writers willing to give them what they requested.


What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

More work. The question I hear most from readers is “What are you working on now?”


What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

All of it. When it comes to promotion, I’m kind of clueless. What works well for one writer doesn’t work at all for another.


Your favorite books and author?

Favorite authors and books:

Anne Perry, Resurrection Row

Louise Penny, The Nature of the Beast

Catriona McPherson: Come to Harm

Cynthia Riggs: Shooting Star

Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death


Which genres do you prefer to read?

In fiction, I read mostly mysteries. I love a good puzzle with lots of surprises.


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

My fellow Kentuckian, Kim Michelle Richardson, should be on the radar of mystery readers. Liars Bench, her first novel, is well worth reading.


What book is currently on your nightstand?

None, I don’t read in bed. I’d never sleep. There is a Catriona McPherson novel and a Kentucky history book on the table by my chair, waiting to be read. In the car, I’ve been listening to Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon books. They’re great company on a commute.


Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?

Agatha Christie’s work is probably my biggest inspiration. I started reading her books when I was about twelve and have never stopped. She had an awesome grasp of how to construct a mystery. She also did a number of innovative experiments with her plots. Her unreliable narrator in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd brought her a lot of criticism, but it is one of my favorites.


How many books do you read/month?

Not as many as I would like. I have a full time job, and am working on my own books as well as publishing others. Most of the time I settle for listening to books while I drive. I’m looking forward to my first vacation in three years. Maybe I can catch up on some of the books I’ve missed.


What is the one book that you think everyone should read?

I don’t believe there is just one book that everyone should read. Reading is personal. I think everyone should read widely and discover what captures their imagination. One of the local libraries has a table labeled brown bag reading. The books are in brown paper covers and all they tell you is the genre. I love to see people grab one of those books and check it out.


Do you have an all-time favorite book?

Agatha Christie’s Nemesis has to be my all-time favorite.


How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

Yes, I reply to messages and read reviews. I have a google alert set for my books. It has been interesting to discover what people say. I’ve also found a few interesting groups of people I wouldn’t have thought of as potential readers. For instance, Circle of Dishonor attracted a bunch of treasure hunters interested in locating the Union Army payrolls that were stolen.


Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but am not good at Tweeting.


Where can your fans find you?, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and our publishing house site


Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Books at Park Place is new, and not as well-known as Haslam’s in St. Petersburg. Both are great stores with good mystery sections. There’s also a quirky book store on Sanibel Island I love to visit, Gene’s Books. It is three beach cottages linked together, and overflowing with books and music. I could spend days there.


Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

I have two Nessa Donnelly mysteries out now, Circle of Dishonor and Concealed in Ash. The series is set in the 1870’s. Nessa is a former Pinkerton agent who tangles with the secret societies of the time.MMExCoverFront

Sarah E. Glenn and I are kicking off a new series set in the 1920’s. Murder on the Mullet Express is the first book.


Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

Murder on the Mullet Express is set during the 1920’s Florida land boom. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn is traveling with her ancient uncle, who claims he’s looking for a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they find alternate transportation on the Mullet Express. They end up embroiled in a poisoning case, plus in the crossfire of rival mobsters looking to cash in on a planned casino in New Homosassa. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the prime suspect in the poisoning, and his love of mechanical inventions makes him a target of the mobsters. Cornelia and her companion, Teddy Lawless, are forced to step in and save him from himself.


If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

What makes a mystery feel real to you: when do you step into the detective’s shoes and start untangling the puzzle?


Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I’m currently working on the third Nessa Donnelly mystery, Blood Relations. This book will take her back to Chicago, where she grew up, and into investigating the murder of a nun. It will be out late next year.

Sarah and I are working on the second book with Cornelia and her uncle, Murder at the Million Dollar Pier. Cornelia is going to be out of her element mingling with the rich and famous at the fancy new hotel her uncle booked. It gets more difficult for her when Teddy, who grew up in society, is arrested for murder.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with your followers and readers?

Concealed in Ash is on the short list for the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award.


What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I owe a tremendous debt to the Sisters in Crime. If it were not for the people I met through that organization, I would never have written the first novel. It is an awesome organization with the most amazing readers and writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.




Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.


Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.


Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.


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Twitter:         @gwenmayo


One thought on “Getting to know Gwen Mayo

  1. Crow says:

    Interesting, good interview! Thanks

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